May 22 2023

Local Governments See Explosion of Edge Computing Devices

Smart city applications will grow thanks to distributed processing power.

When cities today deploy video camera units in various locations, they are establishing the biggest edge-computing environment possible. Modern video cameras contain a great deal of analytics power, meaning that they not only store but process data in their location.

The number of intelligent devices available for placement around municipalities by local governments only continues to grow. These devices can do a lot without a centralized server, increasing computing power on the spot. This growth fuels current public safety and public health trends and lays the groundwork for remarkable new innovations for local governments in particular.

In 2022, IDC projected that state and local governments would spend $3.8 billion on edge solutions that year. That number is expected to increase to $4.9 billion 2026.

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Surveillance and the Edge Computing Explosion

Quite a lot of edge computing occurs with a centralized video surveillance network managed in the cloud. The camera processes data and sends it to a gateway device. And so, de facto edge computing grows as more processing continues at different layers of the technology stack.

Because processing occurs throughout the IT environment, some refer to this configuration as “fog computing.” CDW has assisted the city of Opelika, Ala., in recently moving to this model with Cisco Meraki products. Previously, the city would stream camera data back to a central server, which would eat up bandwidth. The volume of this data could be overwhelming. And the stream slowed traffic speed and reduced the bandwidth available to other solutions.

Now, the city can process data in the camera, where it is stored. Administrators manage data in the cloud, accessing it only when required, thereby relieving network tension.

There is also an inherent cybersecurity benefit to this arrangement. Classic video surveillance required streaming back to a centralized command. Live video streaming so much data could subject it to insider security vulnerabilities. However, edge or fog computing enables data access on demand, which means there is no constant video stream.

Video accessed in smaller doses is less available to security breaches.

READ MORE: How mission-critical operations centers improve public safety.

Edge Devices Enable Smart City Applications

Video cameras on the edge do more than simply capture images. Cameras and other sensors aid in smart city applications, including people counting and traffic management. Officials can determine how many citizens or vehicles are in a specific space and react with public safety or other measures as required.

Some edge computing devices track cell phone use, and some track drones. Environmental sensors in edge devices can monitor the weather and natural disasters as well as air quality. All of these solutions can provide insight into the health and safety conditions of a city.

Modernized supervisory control and data acquisition mechanisms also make significant use of edge computing. It is a boon to utilities to process data through SCADA devices and smart meters to meet their customers where they live. Smart cities will only see more legacy devices join the Internet of Things, where they can contribute to a distributed computing environment. This also relieves potential congestion in network traffic.

In the near future, cities will capitalize on edge computing for applications such as autonomous vehicles and augmented reality. We’ve seen pilot programs for exactly these use cases: Peachtree Corners, Ga., runs an autonomous shuttle through its business district, and Coral Gables, Fla., uses augmented reality to help visitors navigate the city.

There is no limit to what cities can do with edge computing. Officials are no longer restrained by the linear thinking of traditional hub-and-spoke computer models.

This article is part of StateTech’s CITizen blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #StateLocalIT hashtag.

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